Review – Westcomb Focus LT Hoody & eVent DVL


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Westcomb Focus LT Hoody

Westcomb Focus LT Hoody

If I didn’t know better now, eVent DVL waterproof breathable fabric (introduced last autumn) would remind me of yet another diet fad (burn that fat!…eliminate that sweat!). Unfortunately such attempts at worn humor will definitely fall with a wet splat like some hapless trail runner tripping in a mud puddle as eVent DVL actually works just about as well as they say it does.

Product literature claims eVent DVL is “air permeable.” That’s a bit of liberated language, as nearly any waterproof breathable fabric is “air permeable” to one degree or another, but usually not much. Try the bubble test. Grab a hunk of your favorite shell’s fabric, twist and seal until you get a bubble of air in the fabric. With some jackets the bubble will push out through the fabric fairly easily; others it’ll feel like you’re trying to push air out of a plastic bag. Bubble test the eVent DVL. Air passes through the fabric so easily you can barely get a bubble to hold.

What’s that mean? Most “waterproof breathable” fabrics “breathe” by shedding water vapor, but they don’t pass much air. You’ll feel a difference in comfort between your hardshell and your softshell. The hardshell will sweat up faster. Holy grail of fabric design is to cook up something that feels like the breathability of a softshell, but won’t let water in when it’s snowing cat globs. Does eVent DVL do it?

Apparently, yes.

Westcomb sent over their new Focus LT Hoody which has about as much mass as a meth addict’s left bicep and is indeed made from eVent DVL. Perfect. Just the kind of shell I like to use in our relatively dry Colorado climate.

So I tested. First, be aware that this fabric is not designed as an Amazonian rain protection system. “Unlined garments…for light outdoor and aerobic activities” is how the official tag reads. In other words, a workout jacket that’ll keep you more comfortable than trudging in a drizzle wearing a baselayer top (yum, feel that chill!). My test was simple. I did a 45 minute heavy aerobic hike in 40 degree temps with just a baselayer under the Focus, zipped up tight. I’ll testify that yes, this stuff really does breathe like crazy. I sweated up a bit simply due to less natural airflow around my torso, but was amazed at the total lack of the proverbial “jungle air” feeling you get from heating up in a typical hardshell.

In terms of water resistance, I found the Focus LT to be similar to other thin and ultra breathable water resistant membranes. It’ll keep you dry in a brief downpour, is surprisingly waterproof for being so lightweight, but a lengthy day in wet snow or constant rain will eventually cause wet-through in areas such as underneath your backpack straps. That’s not an insult to eVent, it’s just what is. Remember, if you’re doing high output activities the breathability of these fabrics is far more important than their ultimate water resistance — just don’t expect it to be the garment for sitting through an all-night bivvy in the rain.

Packs small, but we have other shells that are just as small but more water resistant. They're not as breathable, however.

Oh, and about the Focus LT Hoody? They should sell this thing at Victoria’s Secret. It would fit just fine on the garter rack. That’s how little of it there is. No waist drawstring. No pit zips (it breathes!). One teeny breast pocket the size of Gerber Baby’s pinkie. Front height is a bit short (rear hem drops a few inches lower), but with “full cut” the jacket fits over my medium weight puffy, and has a helmet compatible (but tight) hood as well. Yep, look for this in your favorite catalog (and I’m not talking REI). Mass: 9.7 ounces 274 grams. Wow.

Shop for Westcomb at Victoria’s.

Comments

16 Responses to “Review – Westcomb Focus LT Hoody & eVent DVL”

  1. dave downing March 11th, 2013 8:11 am

    thx lou. i think i just found my next mtn bike shell.

    i didn’t know your were doing bike gear now ;)

  2. Lou Dawson March 11th, 2013 8:15 am

    Dave, indeed, this fabric would be perfect for biking, though it probably isn’t 100% wind resistant the way a real hard shell would be. It’ll block wind, but the wind will push some air in at the same time, probably just make it breath even better.

    Bike gear? Sure. I think Lisa has reviewed a few bike things over the years.

  3. Brian March 11th, 2013 8:58 am

    Picked up one a few months ago. The review pretty much sums it up, and for a skin up on a coldish day where you need some resistance but want the breathability it’s great. Also have used it for biking to work, and great there.

    Like Lou said there’s no vents and only on pocket, but if you don’t use the pocket to carry anything, it’s mesh backed, so if you leave the pocket open it can work as a “vent”.

    Couple more points, I think it has one of the best shaped collars/hoods I’ve had in a jacket. And it even looks good wearing around town. Couldn’t be happier. Unless you really like pockets.

  4. Joe John March 11th, 2013 11:33 am

    If Wildsnow girl were to give you and the hoody a good 2 minute spraying with garden hose, would say it is good enough to keep you dry?

  5. Bill March 11th, 2013 1:09 pm

    Hey Lou

    Can you compare the westcomb shift hoody with the focus?

  6. bob March 11th, 2013 11:25 pm

    “which has about as much mass as a meth addict’s left bicep” . . . my laugh for the day! (but the crying will start as soon as I find the MSRP on one of these)

  7. Lou Dawson March 12th, 2013 7:47 am

    Bob, fun to write that stuff but double fun if I get a laugh out of you!

    If you’re a cardio athlete and can really generate some output, I think this type of eVent fabric is really worth looking at and could be worth whatever MSRP.

    Me, I could see taking this in my travel kit for days I’m forced to backcountry ski in wet stormy conditions due to travel schedule and “journalistic” obligations, but at home I’m more of a fair weather skier so it’ll probably be less of a go-to jacket at those times.

  8. Lou Dawson March 12th, 2013 7:52 am

    Bill, easy, the Shift is made with NeoShell, which is more water resistant. I’d say the Shift would be the more all-around jacket that would work in heavy rain, while the Focus would be more of a specialized piece that’s really only intended for high output use and not continuous wetting during low output (for example, an unplanned night out in a snowcave).

    Shift covered here:

    http://www.wildsnow.com/7470/low-mass-soft-shell-shootout/

  9. Catered Self March 13th, 2013 2:11 pm

    I have been searching for a new ski jacket for about 6 months now… the amount of jargon used these days is incredibly confusing! I just want a simple jacket, not an iPhone compatible, eVnet DVL breathable ‘smart’ jacket (as I saw one described)! How can they make it so confusing?

  10. steveo March 18th, 2013 4:43 pm

    I recently tested a Scott brand shell made from Gore-Tex Active. It sounds similar to this in that it is very light weight, breathes like crazy (I’ll have to try the bubble test), and has no pit sips and minimal pockets. I was amazed at the breathability on a strenuous tour in warm temps. Is Gore Active and this new eVent a similar product?

    I also noticed on the care label that Gore Active can be washed in the machine with normal detergent and than tumble dryed. This is a nice perk, but bad for TekWash’s business!

  11. Joe May 6th, 2013 7:06 am

    Can anyone comment on the durability of the fabrics on Westcomb’s Focus LT (event DVL) or Specter LT (280 NR eVent/560 NST eVent)? I tested out a Pertex Shield+ shell yesterday and it delaminated under the shoulder straps within an hour. I don’t need bulletproof, but I need better than that; say a reasonable service life under a 30-50 pound pack.

  12. Lou Dawson May 6th, 2013 7:19 am

    Joe, I tend to leave my lightweight shells buried in my pack, but I do wear them occasionally. No problem with this one yet. I’m not much of a durability tester anymore since I’m always trying a lot of different stuff.

  13. Joe May 6th, 2013 7:39 am

    Lou, same here. If I’m bringing along something super lightweight, then I’m not really planning to use it. But I just got one of the 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+ ultralight shells and decided to test it out yesterday while doing a training hike with a 45 pound pack. Pretty disappointing to see it delam more or less instantly. I think the manufacturer was stretching a bit when they say it’s suited to “multi-day backpacking trips”. Reports of durability issues with neoshell as well, so I’m getting pretty gun-shy with these newer fabrics. I sent an email off to Westcomb, so it’ll be interesting to see what they say.

  14. Lou Dawson May 6th, 2013 8:57 am

    Haven’t had any trouble with Neoshell… all this stuff is warrantied for at least a year so unless you’re out on multi-day trips you could just give it a shot and perhaps ramp up the use a bit for a few days initially to test for delam. Over the years, there have been many instances of membrain fabrics being defective. Even before Goretex (some of you really old old timers might remember the dread Foamback). I’ve been told that the manufacturing processes for the laminates can easily get skewed out of spec on whatever machine is spitting out the fabric… Lou

  15. Joe May 6th, 2013 9:48 am

    I do a good bit of this myself, but, for various reasons, I try to avoid needlessly destroying products that obviously aren’t up to the task. I often feel like I’m about to wear out my welcome at some of these retailers (like REI where I’ve broken and returned two big ticket items recently).

  16. Lou Dawson May 6th, 2013 9:53 am

    Joe, indeed, one of the most important things in doing masterful mountaineering is using gear wisely. While our culture tends to glorify gear breakage, there is really no honor in it. I say if you want to break something, go destroy a Jeep axle in Moab. Otherwise, take care. (grin). Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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